Saturday, March 23, 2013

against the grain

One thing about living here that I seem to never get used to is the noise that comes with living in close proximity with other human beings. Although our apartment is over 30 years old and quite structurally sound so as to insulate the racket of neighbors coming through the walls and floors, we still hear goings-on around us through open windows and doors. What I never like to hear is our neighbors shouting or screaming at each other. It grates the ears and rubs nerves until they are raw, especially when it happens on a daily basis (one particular family we've dubbed the Screamers, as it seems to run in the family). It amazes me at times when a shouting match has gone on for a particularly lengthy period that I have to fight the urge to shout back at them (my other solution would be to just play these sounds out the window, loud and clear!). But I never do, only because I know it would only exacerbate the problem.

One evening when the whole family was going at it with the little ones screaming themselves hoarse and the adults not doing much better, B suggested that we pray for them. In my head I knew he was right -- so many deeper issues are going on and Satan has been wreaking havoc within this family. But in that moment, it seemed so unnatural; I didn't know them. I didn't know what they were fighting about. They were the ones who were bothering me; I just wanted them to stop.

It wasn't until later (when I could hear myself think again) that I realized what B proposed was so counter-intuitive that I didn't even want to do it. And in fact, most of the things God tells us to do are not inherent to us. Without the power of the Holy Spirit, we have no capacity in ourselves to love our neighbors, to submit to our parents, to cherish our wives, to respect our husbands. But the beauty of the gospel is that because of Christ, we are empowered to do what does not come naturally to us.

A couple weeks ago B and I attended a marriage seminar entitled "Love and Respect" with three other couple friends. Although there was never anything earth-shattering to me about the truths I heard, I knew that given the wisdom I found I now had the responsibility to carry it out in my life. It's easy to think or say "I will do this" but when one gets to the thick of the moment, when the ingrained self-preserving instincts and emotions kick in, the question to me becomes "WILL you?"

Will I be humble? Will I obey the commands of my Savior? Will I stop from barreling down my own path of inborn justice, and turn the other way to the good and the right of my other half, or my neighbor, or even my enemy?

Jesus saves. He heals and He renews. Only because of Him do I know the right thing to do is to pray for my screaming neighbors, to be compassionate to the unlovely of the world, to be respectful to my husband. And only by Him will I be able to push against the grain, to drive diametrically opposite the culture, and live it out in my life.

Monday, March 4, 2013

the un-lovely

I have been waiting and watching for what to blog about -- lately I have been going through a sort of life-inventory and self-evaluation that at times can be a bit trying -- anyone know what I mean?

Both B and I have taken the first steps and "inaugurated" ourselves into service at church. B has already translated for two sermons and I walked out of my shell and played for service. Being teamed with the pastor's son was a blessing, and for a moment there after the singing had ended I could feel the slight tingle of knowing God's presence with me -- not so much in playing well, but in playing with my heart -- a moment of a kind of Shekinah glory, almost.

But what I want to tell here is not that we have been good and praiseworthy, but perhaps to share a struggle and give challenge to myself.

On Saturday we were practicing for worship; inside the church were just the three of us -- B, Pastor's son, and me. We left the church doors open, as we are wont to do, because it leads right into the street for passersby to know we are there and feel free to stop by if they feel so inclined. Well, one lady did stop by, to our surprise and my consternation. She is the lady I have seen on spotty appearances Sunday mornings, the sight of her frightening me because her looks are not like others. Diminutive, hump-backed, toothless, and hobbling, it seemed in her movements unpredictable what she might do next. She came speaking of something but none of us could quite make out her slurred speech, which came out along with not a small amount of spit. She shuffled to each one of us in each point of the room -- even I could not hide behind the piano -- and came so insistently as she shared something that none of us could fully understand. As she stood there next to me I could tell something had disturbed her and I felt ashamed of my own insensitive fears. Swallowing pride and prejudice, I took the example of Pastor's son with his kindly, sympathetic face and listening ear, even though neither of us are very good at comprehending Taiwanese. In the end, she made her last round to each of us and starting with me, began to pray. I do not know what she prayed for, but when I finally realized she was praying as she put her wrinkled hand in mine, I was rebuked. Who knows the faith of this little woman, who claps so loudly and out of rhythm during praise and comes to church although her movements do not come with ease? Surely the world shrinks back or laughs and scorns her each day, and should she not find comfort and solace in the open sanctuary of saints?

Sometimes I wonder what I am doing here. But each week at service I see the world's unlovely and come to realize that the unloveable is what's inside my own heart. I only think that the role-reversal of this woman praying for me was in fact as it should have been. I am the one who desperately needs more of Jesus and more of His love. !